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Women in the Legal Profession – Moving Beyond “One Size Fits All”

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Women in the Legal Profession - Moving Beyond "One Size Fits All"
Women in the Legal Profession - Moving Beyond "One Size Fits All"

Does a “one size fits all” solution apply to your career?  With a plethora of “how-to” guides, articles and seminars telling women lawyers how to manage their careers, it is no wonder that many are tired of “work-life” balance topics and the like. 

Join the TLA for a panel discussion with sole practitioners, law firm based and freelance lawyers from diverse areas of practice, including real estate, personal injury, family law, commercial litigation and corporate/commercial, at various ages and stages of their careers, as they share their own tailored definitions of success.

  1. Emily Y. Fan (15 minutes = Leadership for legal professionals, excluding law firm or other organization-specific standards for promotion and/or partnership)

    She will be speaking about how to build a practice as an associate. Firms frequently encourage associates to business develop, but little guidance is provided on what this means in practice. The discussion will focus on how to get started, how to stand out from the crowd, and tips for developing strong working relationships.

  2. Erin Cowling (15 minutes = Work/life balance and wellness principles for lawyers + Best practices for career and profile management as a legal professional)

    “I will be speaking from the perspective of a large firm litigator turned freelance lawyer and co- founder of a legal outsourcing business called Flex Legal Network (a network of experienced freelance lawyers (10+ years) who provide assistance to sole practitioners, firms and in-house legal departments on a part-time, hourly, short-term contract or project basis).

    I can address my experiences in forging an alternative legal career path including the pros and cons of being a freelance lawyer and running your own business instead of working in a firm or in-house or for the government. I can also provide some insight into who would and would not be suited for this type of career and how freelance lawyers differ from sole practitioners, etc.

    I don’t believe “work life balance” is a women’s issue or a working mother’s issue – it is a person and working parent issue. I think we do a disservice to women (and men) when we frame it that way. Also “work life balance” all comes down to being happy in your job – someone who is working 100 hours a week may be happy and content (I know I had many years like that where I was). My humble opinion is that it is key to do some self-exploration, figure out what you want to do in life (easier said than done!) set goals, and work your way to them. Find a mentor and a sponsor. Don’t go it alone. Personally, I will never make the same amount of money as an  equity partner at a large firm but I am doing interesting work, running a business, and I am my own boss. What’s not to love?”

  3. Tannis Waugh (15 minutes = Work/life balance and wellness principles for lawyers + Best practices for career and profile management as a legal professional)

    A sole solicitor’s practice, specifically the area of real estate, is conducive to being flexible. Gone are the days where private practice has to be a certain number of hours per week with large overhead costs. This kind of practice can be ideal for the lawyer who has non-work time commitments.

    Tannis will take you through how she got started in her own private practice and what mechanisms she’s engaged to ensure that work rarely interferes with non-work commitments.

  4. Joanne Stewart (15 minutes = Work/life balance and wellness principles for lawyers + Best practices for career and profile management as a legal professional)

“Know who you are.

Then remember who you are, and make choices that let you bring out the best you.

Don’t lie to yourself about who you are because then, you appear to lie to others, and that never ends well.

Let me give some examples.

You think you want to be a trial lawyer in downtown Toronto. You have the brains but the little voice in the back of your head says if you don’t sleep 10 hours a night you’ll get really sick (as usual). You ignore the voice. A barrister firm hires you and 1 week into a 3 week trial you are sick, confined to bed and the senior lawyer is left to manage the next 2 weeks alone.  Not good.

He thinks you lied to him about your ability. You let him down. You lost his confidence.  It’s  over, and the start of the slide down was when you lied to yourself.

You know you want to have 3 kids back to back. Your spouse travels on business and is gone 1 week a month. You tell your employer nothing about any of this, and agree to bill 1600 hours a year, and do 100 pro bono hours. Two years ago when you were single that was not a problem. You tell yourself: I’m still me. I can do it. Three years in with a toddler at home and a baby on the way, you realize you’ve got a time crunch. What you agreed to is not do-able and now you have to go to your team and ask for a new deal, shedding commitments you made and now want to lay off on someone else, who may have to pick up your slack. Not good. The start of the slide was when you lied to yourself.

When you remember who you are and make commitments accordingly, you’ll tend to exceed what you promised, and people like that so they’ll like you and think they can depend on you. That is good. Your success is underway.

Go back to the first scenario. Pretend you did not lie to yourself, and as a result lie to others. You know you need to sleep 10 hours and you want and can do the litigation thing, but you are clear you can’t really do more than a 5 day trial and that is what you have to offer. An employer who hears this and accepts it will also accept you, and because you deliver, you will be a success to the employer, the client, and yourself.

Other examples of lying to yourself so you lie to others:

  1. you hate being told what to do but you need a big starting salary so you go to a big firm for the money. After endless demands made on you by the many, your words get the better of you and it does not go well.
  2. you’ve wanted a baby for years and ‘tried hard’ and after the birth of baby#1 you promise to return from parental leave in 6 months and take the top up, then on the night before the return day, you just cannot leave the baby, you decline to return, leaving what was your team holding the bag and out of pocket. Not good.
  3. you’ve wanted to be in a relationship but you’ve worked such long days for so long and a senior member of the profession, married twice already, pursues you and speak of love for you and you accept it all, shutting down the little voice that says: no. Just when you expect him to leave W#2 and make you Wife #3, he breaks it off with you, and you are the ‘talk’ of your real estate bar, and not in a good way. Not good.”

Presenter(s)

Erin Cowling

Co-founder of Flex Legal Network and freelance lawyer.

Emily Fan

Melanie Manchee

Joanne Stewart

Tannis Waugh

Tannis WaughTannis was called to the bar in 2003 and practices in the areas of real estate, corporate/commercial, and estate planning. She practiced in a boutique firm in Toronto for three years before becoming a sole practitioner.

As a former Trustee for the Toronto Lawyers Association, Tannis has been involved in advocacy and education initiatives, most notably the moderator and presenter of continuing education programmes and writer of articles for the TLA journal.

She is also a member of the Condominium Sub-documents Committee of the Working Group on Lawyers and Real Estate which is responsible for producing province-wide precedent materials for condominium transactions.

Tannis is a frequent presenter for continuing legal education programmes and, in the past, has spoken on the issue of real estate, estates and ethics for the Canadian Bar Association, Ontario Bar Association, Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Toronto Lawyers Association.

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